Open Letter to Pope Francis

Open Letter to Pope Francis

The Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities

c/o Women’s Community Revitalization Project
100 West Oxford Street, Suite E-2300
Philadelphia, PA 19122

August 12, 2015

His Holiness, Pope Francis
Apostolic Palace
00120 Vatican City

Your Holiness:
We are honored that in a few short weeks you will be coming to visit Philadelphia.
As you celebrate Mass on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and look at the hundreds of thousands of people on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, you will see the gleaming skyscrapers and luxury apartment buildings that are testament to the promise of our great city, which has overcome decades of population decline to embark on a new era of growth and development.

Yet mere blocks from where you will be standing are neighborhoods gripped by some of the most intense poverty in the United States. Philadelphia remains the poorest big city in America, and tens of thousands of Philadelphians are still living without access to affordable homes. More than 240,000 households citywide [including half of all renters] are spending more than they can afford on their housing costs.

The new growth and luxury development in our city has created rising housing costs and put increased pressures on families – who now fear being priced out of the communities where they have lived for generations. In some neighborhoods of Philadelphia, real estate prices have increased 200 percent (200%) from 2000 to 2012. These rapid changes are having a disproportionate impact on minority communities. The African American population in sections of South and West Philadelphia, for example, has decreased by nearly 30 percent (30%) due to these pressures.

Throughout your pontificate, you have strongly criticized the “throw away culture” of capitalism which values profits over the inherent worth of people. Though we come from a variety of backgrounds and traditions, we place great respect on the Church’s social teachings, which tell us that providing shelter is a sacred obligation.

St. Francis of Assisi, taught the importance of always walking in solidarity with the poor, we ask that you now walk in solidarity with us, who are the most vulnerable Philadelphia families. Please join your voice with ours– the Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities– as we work to ensure our brothers and sisters can obtain homes that are affordable.

One key tool in the local fight to create and preserve affordable housing is the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund. Just last year, the Housing Trust Fund provided assistance to more than 20,000 households. Given the deep need in our city– we are advocating for increased funding for this crucial tool in the fight against poverty.

Please use your visit to Philadelphia as a call to action for our city leaders to treat housing as a human right and fund our Housing Trust Fund.

Very Respectfully,

Nora Lichtash                                                     Tom Earle                                                            Nancy Salandra

Principal Organizers, Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities


Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities’ Member Groups:
15 Now One Art Oasis
ACT UP People’s Emergency Center
Advocates for the West Fairhill Community Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance
AFSCME District Council 47 Philadelphia Jobs with Justice
All the Philly Jazz Philadelphia Orchard Project
Arab American CDC Point Breeze Organizing Committee
Bese Saka Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign
Caucus of Working Educators SEIU Healthcare PA
Circle of Hope’s Development without Displacement Team Simple Homes
Disabled in Action The Simple Way
East Park Revitalization Alliance Soil generation
Farm to City, LLC Southwest CDC
Firm Hope Baptist Church Synderville CDC
Habitat for Humanity-Philadelphia Spatial Justice Lab
Housing Alliance of PA United Communities Southeast Philadelphia
Kensington Renewal United Food and Commercial Workers
Liberty Resources United Home Care Workers of PA
Logan Orchard and Market Universal Companies
My Place Germantown Viola Street Residents Association
Maypop Collective for Climate & Economic Justice Women’s Community Revitalization Project


Cc:          Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., D.D., Archbishop of Philadelphia

Robert J. Ciaruffoli, President, World Meeting of Families